The News Is Making People Anxious. You’ll Never Believe What They’re Reading Instead.


Though it can be hard to see past the daily deluge of devastating headlines, there is plenty of good news in the world right now — and a great deal of interest in reading it.

Instagram accounts dedicated to good news, such as @TanksGoodNews and @GoodNews_Movement, have seen follower counts skyrocket in recent weeks. At the end of March, the actor John Krasinski introduced a “news network for good news” on YouTube; within a week, Some Good News had surpassed 1.5 million subscribers and 25 million views. Google searches for “good news” spiked a month ago and have only continued to rise.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented level of growth in the past four weeks,” said Lucia Knell, the director of brand partnerships at Upworthy, who noted that the company saw a 65 percent growth in followers on Instagram and 47 percent increase in on-site page views in March, compared to the previous month.

Upworthy was founded in 2012 with a commitment to positive storytelling. At the time, Facebook’s algorithm appeared to favor inspiring, clickbaity headlines; you may recall seeing them all over your feed. But in 2013, Upworthy and other good-news sites saw page views drop considerably after Facebook adjusted its algorithm.

Good news has been a boon for independent publishers, too. Lori Lakin Hutcherson, the founder and editor in chief of Good Black News, said that stories on her site have been spreading “like wildfire” recently.

“Just looking at shares and clicking through,” she said, “these are stories that have been about 12 times more popular than the standard.” Good Black News has always attracted a steady audience of black readers, Ms. Lakin Hutcherson said, but in the last two months she’s seen an influx of interest outside her usual demographic.

Branden Harvey, the founder of @GoodGoodGoodCo, said that in seeking out these stories, readers aren’t necessarily looking for an escape from the news. “More than just wanting to be distracted from Covid, they want a genuine sense of hopefulness in the response to Covid,” he said.

“It’s not that people don’t want news about the coronavirus,” Ms. Lakin Hutcherson said. “They just want news about it that’s more positive or that are showing people come together and fight this and offering ways individuals can help.”

Just as Facebook boosted good news in the early 2010s, Instagram has become a place for positive storytelling to proliferate. Good news has spread on popular meme accounts over the last several weeks, and several account administrators have begun trading positive stories in a group chat.

George Resch, a fixture in the Instagram meme world known online as @Tank.Sinatra, created a good news account in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey. He publishes across platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, but he said that Instagram is where the posts perform best. “I’m seeing more growth on my page than I’ve seen since the first year,” he said.

The team behind the World Record Egg recently introduced a good-news Instagram account called @Sunny_Side_News. The account ballooned to more than 162,000 followers in a week without any promotion.

The most popular good-news accounts are focused on delivering coronavirus-related stories with a positive, productive message.

Alissa Kahn-Whelan, a founder of @Sunny_Side_News, said she thinks carefully about how to frame stories to mitigate stress on readers and encourage sharing.

“We tend not to use the negative language,” she said. “The other day I could have used the word ‘death’ in the headline. I thought, Do I want someone scrolling to see the word death? Instead I used ‘lives lost.’” But good-news publishers said that news that’s framed too positively can also end up alienating readers.

“There’s a line,” said Mr. Resch. “You can’t come across as preachy and sappy.”

Often, the most widely shared good-news items are baseless. National Geographic, for its part, has been vigilant about correcting the record. A story sparked by a tweet about swans returning to the Venice canals racked up hundreds of thousands of retweets, but quickly fell apart under scrutiny. And when footage of an orangutan washing her hands began to spread on social media, urging viewers to “be more like Sandra,” the writer Natasha Daly informed readers that the video was real but had nothing to do with public health measures; it was filmed in November 2019.

“For these stories to really have lasting power they have to be rigorous journalism,” said Ms. Klein, of The Washington Post. “We don’t just pull a cool video or tweet off the internet.”



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